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Are Interns Eligible for Health Insurance Benefits?

June 15, 2022 | posted by Abacus Payroll
Interns Group Health Insurance

Summer is in full swing, and for some businesses, that may mean there’s a summer intern or two on staff for the season. Internships are a great way to introduce new people to the industry, bring a fresh perspective to your business, and receive work in exchange for lower pay rates than a typical full-time worker, college credits, or simply providing invaluable hands-on experience. There are many pros and cons to consider when establishing an internship program.

However, it is important to keep in mind that interns are people too and deserve to be respected as such in the workplace. Some industries may face more competition for talent than others. This may mean re-evaluating your company’s benefits package to include providing interns group health insurance for the summer term.

Summer Internships

What qualifies someone as a “summer intern”? A summer intern is a temporary employee that can provide their skills in exchange for pay, experience, or school credit depending on your business and the intern. The duration of their employment typically ranges from 90-120 days. Depending on your business model, some summer internships can evolve into a part-time internship when school starts back up in the fall. Based on recent labor laws, most internships nowadays are paid positions.

While their employment may be for a short period of time, interns may still be eligible for benefits depending on the terms of your group health insurance. A large percentage of interns are most likely still covered by their parent’s insurance, but others may be over age 26 or have extenuating circumstances where an employer-sponsored health plan could be a very attractive benefit to them.

Group Health Insurance for Interns

So, does your business have to offer health insurance enrollment to an intern? The answer completely depends on your business’ specific health plan eligibility terms and parameters.

First, know that the Department of Labor does not actually differentiate between paid interns and employees, so they do not have separate employment rules. In most cases, employer-sponsored health insurance benefit eligibility is triggered by the number of full-time employees at the business, the number of hours worked by the employee, and/or the length of the worker’s employment.

Temporary or seasonal workers typically do not qualify for healthcare benefits under the majority of plans. It is common for benefits to usually begin around six months of employment, which exceeds the length of most summer internships. If the intern continues working for the company for longer than six months in a 12-month period, they may no longer be considered seasonal/temporary.  Some health plans may also set a minimum number of hours per week that have to be worked in order to be eligible for enrollment, also causing some interns to be ineligible.

This information is a high-level overview, so it is recommended to consult with your insurance broker to see if there is specific wording that would make temporary or seasonal workers eligible under your plan and to confirm your plan’s exact rules with your carrier or benefits broker. If your summer interns are in fact eligible, you should provide them with access to this benefit per your usual waiting periods.

Other Employment Benefits

Regardless of your plan’s eligibility, offering benefits to your summer interns can enhance your employment brand and reputation amongst college placement offices and the intern community. A successful internship should truly be a mutually beneficial experience.

At the employer’s discretion, other benefits that can be offered to an intern may include paid holidays or time off, retirement plan inclusion, tuition reimbursement, mentorships, invitations to company social events, and other on-premise benefits and activities that are available to your whole team.

Have a question regarding internships or group health insurance for your business? Contact an Abacus Payroll advisor today.  Our specialists can point you in the right direction with supplemental HR support or an introduction to a benefits broker. We’re here to help your business succeed.


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About the Author: Abacus Payroll

Abacus Payroll, Inc. is a leading provider of payroll solutions for businesses of all sizes. Whether yours is a family-owned small business or a national corporation, we provide payroll, tax and other financial services on time and at an affordable price. Unlike other payroll providers, Abacus Payroll will assign your very own payroll specialist who will understand your payroll needs inside and out. So no more speaking to a different person each time, no more sitting on hold for hours and most importantly no more missed deadlines! Contact us today to see how we can help your business. You can count on us.